Rolling Out

Glynn Turman relives his Black Panther Party experiences for latest role

Glynn Turman says it’s important to know the history of our contribution to where we are today

Glynn Turman is cast as Walter Newton in the Apple TV+ series “The Big Cigar,” the story of Black Panther Party founder Huey Newton escaping from the FBI to Cuba with the assistance of famed producer Bert Schneider.

Turman spoke with rolling out about the series, the importance of keeping the Black Panther Party’s story alive,  and resilience in the face of adversity.

Why was the series special for you?

It [tells] the story of an iconic figure from our culture and our experience; it keeps his name alive and his journey alive. It shows a different aspect of his journey, but it’s important to keep the aspect and the contribution of what the Black Panther Party meant in America in the early ’60s, late ’60s, and early ’70s. This story tackles a different phase of that. [This story is] one that’s entertaining. [This story is] one that’s enlightening. I really didn’t know about it, but it was in an article that they took from Playboy about this escapade. It was interesting to me from that standpoint alone, so I’m like “What? How did that happen? Who was this guy? Who was Bert?” I think it’s something that the viewers will enjoy.

How was it for you to play the father role in this series?

It was not a difficult stretch. First of all, you want to start with what you’re given and what I was given is the fact that I’m a big fan of André [Holland], and I appreciate his work. I’ve seen his work many, many times over the years, and I think we had a mutual admiration for one another’s work. We went into it with that respect and that was a major part of the characterization and relationship between Walter and Huey, their respect for one another.

For people who don’t know much about the Black Panther Party, why should they watch this?

I think it’s important to know the history of our contribution to where we are today in this American society and its democracy, what it takes to make a democracy, what it takes to maintain a democracy, that it doesn’t just take care of itself, and that … all of us [are] responsible for making it live up to what it says it is and what that takes of each individual, not just leaders who are telling you “This is what it is.” You have to be responsible and have the courage, to dig into yourself and maybe go against the grain, maybe go against stepping out of a comfort zone. If you look to see who and what that looks like, this is a story that tells you what that looks like, who was a part of it, and who dared to do such a thing. That is why we are where we are. That is why it’s important to listen to those who still have their shoulder to the wheel and are trying to move this democracy forward.

What is a message you’d like to send to the younger generation on their journey to success?

Two things. There’s no finish line, so don’t quit. And have courage.

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